Sunday, July 30, 2006

Sahara Grasslands and life at 3.8 billion BCE

Welcome! “Alien Life” tracks the latest discoveries and thoughts in the various elements of the famous Drake Equation. You may notice that this and future entries are shorter than usual; Career, family and book deal commitments have forced me to cut back some of my projects. Now, here’s today’s news:
g Abodes - At the end of the last Ice Age, the Sahara Desert was just as dry and uninviting as it is today. But sandwiched between two periods of extreme dryness were a few millennia of plentiful rainfall and lush vegetation. See
. For related story, see “History Suggests Major Wind Shift Could Again Bring Drought to Great Plains” at
g Life - Ten years ago, an international team of scientists reported evidence, in a controversial cover story in the journal Nature, that life on Earth began more than 3.8 billion years ago - 400 million years earlier than previously thought. A UCLA professor who was not part of that team and two of the original authors report that the evidence is stronger than ever. See
g Intelligence - Birds do it, bees do it, humans since the dawn of time have done it. But just how much has the act really changed through the millennia and even in past decades? Are humans doing it more? Are we doing it better? Sort of, say scientists. But it's how people fess up to the truth about their sex lives that has changed the most over the years. See
g Cosmicus - As part of ESA's ambitious, long-term Aurora exploration program, ExoMars will search for traces of life on Mars. The mission requires entirely new technologies for self-controlled robots, built-in autonomy and cutting-edge visual terrain sensors. See
g Learning - There’s a neat set of online activities, primarily for older teens or young adults, about communicating with extraterrestrial intelligence at It helps students learn about SETI while they send one another messages then decode them, as if they were alien civilizations on distant worlds.
g Imagining - Here’s a neat site that examines aliens in science fiction films: While short on studying the evolution of those aliens, it does discuss how these villainous creatures are a manifestation of our own fears, a nice take on the anthropomorphic bias most people possess regarding alien life.
g Aftermath - Here’s an intriguing short story for you to look up: Frederick Pohl’s “The Day after the Day the Martians Came.” It examines racial prejudice and raises an interesting point about how we might react to one another following alien contact. Pohl’s story is anthologized in the classic “Dangerous Visions,” edited by Harlan Ellison.

Get your SF book manuscript edited